Smithfield swimmers finally begin season

Smithfield swimmers finally begin season

Smithfield sophomore Autumn Blakely swims the breaststroke portion of the 200-yard individual medley during last Thursday afternoon’s season-opening meet against East Providence at the Smithfield YMCA’s pool. Blakely won the IM in a time of 2:20.73 and the 100-yard butterfly in 1:03.48 to help lead the Sentinels to a 69-25 victory. (Breeze photos by Kayla Panu)
Two-time Div. III champion girls’ team eyes another outstanding winter

SMITHFIELD – With its core group of swimmers returning from last season’s team that repeated as Division III champions, the Smithfield High girls’ swim team finally opened its season last Thursday afternoon by rolling past East Providence, 69-25, at the Smithfield YMCA’s pool.

The late start to the season was an unusual one, especially since every other high school team in the state began their respective seasons last month. Head coach Jennifer Bibeault said that her teams were supposed to start their season before the winter break against Mount Saint Charles Academy, but because of Mount’s exam schedule, they had to move the meet.

Because of this, the Sentinels spent the first five weeks of the season exclusively working out at the YMCA. But they will be making up for lost time, because last Thursday’s meet kicked off a stretch that will see Smithfield compete in four meet in a nine-day stretch.

“That won’t be too bad,” Bibeault added. “It gave us a chance to practice for a full month before we got into our meets.”

The core of the girls’ team came back this season, but the Sentinels graduated six seniors last year, and a few girls also didn’t return because they decided to play other sports this year. Bibeault said that last year’s team had 21 girls on its roster, but while this year’s squad is down to 13, it does have experience.

Leading the way for the Sentinels are senior co-captain Emily DiDonato, who competes in the freestyle and butterfly events, and junior co-captain Meghan LaFlamme, who swims in the freestyle and backstroke events. Bibeault also highlighted sophomore Autumn Blakely as one of their top swimmers, as she swims the butterfly and individual medley, and junior Megan Devlin, who does the breaststroke.

Those four swimmers played big roles in leading the Sentinels to last year’s championship, as well as a 7-3 record competing in the Division II dual-meet season. But while the Sentinels will return to next month’s D-III championship meet at Roger Williams University, they are currently swimming in the new Brother Anthony Division, which features most of the school that will be competing at the Division III meet.

In addition to swimming against the Townies and Mounties, the Sentinels will host the Tolman/Shea co-op squad on Thursday at 4 p.m. and visit Burrillville the following day at CCRI-Lincoln’s pool. Classical, Mount Hope, Pilgrim, and Toll Gate are also in the division, but the boys will not swim against Pilgrim and Toll Gate because neither school has a boys’ team.

Speaking of the boys’ team, which unlike the girls, will swim in next month’s Division II championship meet, it has grown a little bit. Last season, Smithfield had three boys, but this year’s squad has five, including returning juniors Nick Bottone and Ben Iannuzzi, and Bibeault said it will be a little more competitive this year because it will have a relay team and won’t have to give up points in those events.

“Two of them have been swimming for most of their lives,” Bibeault said. “The other three are new, but they can swim at least two out of the four strokes. We’re working on it and building them up. And none of them are seniors. We have four juniors and one freshman. Hopefully, they’ll all come back next year, and we’ll have some more incoming freshmen and build some more.”

Overall, Bibeault said that winning is fun, but she is not emphasizing it. She enjoys the camaraderie of her program – the boys and girls as one – and she wants to see her teams swim and have fun, as well as see her swimmers “excel and improve their times,” she added. “And I know they like to do well at meets, so that’s a bonus.”

In the girls’ victory last Thursday over the Townies, the Sentinels captured all 11 events, with LaFlamme, Devlin, and Blakely each claiming a pair of events. LaFlamme captured the 50-yard freestyle in 28.1 seconds and the 100-yard backstroke in a time of 1:08.32; Devlin seized the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:22.44 and 200-yard freestyle in 2:18.18, and Blakely won the 100-yard butterfly in 1:03.48 and the 200-yard individual medley in 2:20.73.

LaFlamme, Devlin, and Blakely also teamed up with senior Emma DeCoste to win the 200-yard medley relay in 2:05.59 and senior Kelsie Crough to capture the 400-yard freestyle relay in 4:32.50. Also winning events were the 200-yard freestyle relay team of junior Shaylee Costa, sophomore Dana-Lee Harrington, DiDonato, and DeCoste (2:08.40), Harrington in the 500-yard freestyle (6:44.58), and DeCoste in the 100-yard freestyle (1:03.86).

The boys, who fell to East Providence, 57-22, saw Iannuzzi take first place in the 200-yard I.M. in 2:50.84.

The good times continued for the Sentinels on Monday afternoon, as both teams were able to sweep Mount Saint Charles at the Woonsocket YMCA’s pool. The girls captured 10 of the 11 events to defeat the Mounties, 53-41, and the boys posted a 30-16 win in their meet.

The girls’ team had four swimmers win multiple events: LaFlamme in the 50-yard freestyle (28.92 seconds) and 100-yard backstroke (1:12.81), Devlin in the 100-yard freestyle (1:03.28) and 100-yard breaststroke (1:21:27), Blakely in the 100-yard butterfly (1:07.64) and 200-yard I.M. (2:25.49), and Harrington in the 200-yard (2:35.80) and 500-yard (6:50.13) freestyles.

LaFlamme, Devlin, Blakely, and Harrington also teamed up to win the 200-yard medley (2:13.63) and 400-yard (4:36.12) freestyle relay events.

On the boys’ side, the relay team of juniors Mike Mancino, Chris Cassidy, Bottone, and Iannuzzi captured the 200-yard (2:16.05) and 400-yard (5:30.12) events, and Bottone also captured the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:29.96.

Smithfield junior Nick Bottone dives into the water for the start of his freestyle event during last Thursday afternoon’s meet. The visiting Townies won 10 of the boys’ meet’s 11 events en route to a 57-22 victory.